Risk Assessments – Not Child’s Play

A Borough Council has been fined £13,000 plus costs of £1,317 after a two year old child had two fingertips severed when playing in a park for children under 11 years old. The child had trapped his fingers in the external gate of the children’s play area when one of the other children in the play area shut the gate.

The stopper mechanism on the gate had been removed 18 months before the accident, and the park staff had filled in the hole. The council had failed to notice that the stopper mechanism had been removed when carrying out their risk assessments. The risk assessment in place at the time of the accident had only considered the locking side of the gate and not the hinge, where the child lost his fingertips. The risk of entrapment should have been identified long before the incident and the council should have taken action to remedy the oversight.

A HSE inspector commented after the hearing: “It is simply not good enough to not identify a serious risk and do nothing to prevent it. A guard should have been fitted over the dangerous part of the gate or the stopper should have been replaced.

This incident sends a very clear message that all reasonably foreseeable hazards must be identified and suitable controls put in place to manage the risk, especially where vulnerable people are concerned.

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